This week I came across a Ted Talk with economist Shlomo Benartzi called "Saving for Tomorrow, Tomorrow." Benartzi explained what he called the biggest obstacle for people trying to save for a comfortable retirement — saving money right now.
Benartzi's talk began with some examples of the poor job Americans are doing protecting their families and their futures.
“Many more of you insure your iPhones than your lives, even when you have kids,” said Benartzi. “We’re not doing that well when it comes to insurance.”
In addition, just two-thirds of Americans are saving for retirement right now, according to Benartzi. Half do not have access to a 401(k) plan, but of those who do, many don’t bother to opt in to their company’s plan.
“They're just too lazy. They never get around to logging into a complicated website and doing 17 clicks to join the 401(k) plan,” said Benartzi. “And then they have to decide how they're going to invest in their 52 choices, and they never heard about what is a money market fund. And they get overwhelmed and they just don't join.”
Then there are those who have access to a 401(k) and enroll, but can’t seem to save enough.
“People, mentally and emotionally and intuitively frame savings as a loss because [they think] ‘I have to cut my spending’,” said Benartzi. “If people frame mentally saving for retirement at a loss, they’re not going to be saving for retirement.”
Benartzi said by understanding the psychology behind financial decisions and behavior, we can flip the challenges into solutions.
“Behavioral finance is really a combination of psychology and economics, trying to understand the money mistakes people make,” he said.
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